In the interview part I: Marco Loth and Markus Leister from TMD Friction
In his role as Vice President, Marco Loth is responsible, among other things, for “Category Management” as well as global data management, pricing, sourcing and engineering. He is also in charge of sales in the Asian region. Markus Leister manages the “Global Data” unit. A key aspect of this unit is the maintenance and processing of catalog data.
Together with Jürgen Mehlis, EVP Data Manager Products at TecAlliance, we talked about the growing importance of data quality in a rapidly developing market and constantly increasing customer requirements. We are steadily working on improving the data quality in the TecDoc Catalogue. By introducing new requirements for our data suppliers in the form of validations and KPIs, we ensure that our TecDoc data meets the information needs at the point of service.
Jürgen Mehlis: What does data quality mean for TMD friction?
Marco Loth: With regard to catalog data, data quality is an important means for us to communicate with our customers. If you look at the pure data, i.e. not just the catalog area, but also product data, SAP master data, etc., which is used by all our systems, it is clear that this is intended to ensure that the customer can ultimately identify the right spare part. Through high data quality, we reduce return costs and contribute to the efficiency of our customers’ business areas. A repair shop, for example, can always offer its customers the right part and in- stall it in the respective repair case thanks to high data quality. This also has an impact on the perceived quality of the workshop’s work.
For TMD Friction, data quality is the guarantee for all import- ant processes. For this reason, it is a very important area at TMD Friction, and one in which a lot of investment has been made in recent years. This expansion serves to ensure data quality – not only in the area of catalog data.
Jürgen Mehlis: Why is data quality so important to TMD Friction?
Marco Loth: It is important for us to make things as simple as possible for our customers. The customer should be able to enter his data or the respective vehicle into the catalog or database, for example, and identify his parts directly from this. In this way, we want to ensure that, on the one hand, the selection for the customer is reduced as far as possible so that he can match the parts very precisely. On the other hand, we want to avoid the customer having to order several parts because he is not sure which one is the right one and then having to send back the parts that do not fit. This is time-consuming and causes unnecessary costs for us and the customer.
Jürgen Mehlis: The topic of data quality has undergone rapid development. Nowadays, people talk about data being the new oil or gold. What do these developments look like at TMD Friction?
Marco Loth: In many companies, a department or division has been created to deal exclusively with data. This was also the case at TMD Friction about 11 years ago. With this department, we set a focus and recognized how important data is. In the past, product data or catalog data was maintained by product management in many companies, including TMD Friction. A product manager therefore maintained some master data and catalog data in addition to his day-to-day work – if he still found time for it. That is why it was decided in 2010 to integrate a separate data team into the organization. Today, this is the team that Markus Leister leads. This way, we can ensure that there really is a high focus on data and that data quality is continuously improved.
It’s not hard to see that data has become enormously important in all areas, not just at TMD Friction, but especially in the vehicle manufacturer or automotive spare parts sector. In addition, data is becoming more and more international. We used to look at data at the level of Central Europe. Today, we collect data worldwide, which naturally presents us with new challenges. In China or Brazil, for example, there are different vehicles in operation compared with Europe. There are different circumstances there, a different way of communicating with the market. The whole world of data has consequently become more complex and more global for us in recent years. Our teams are now not just based in Europe, but are distributed around the world. We have employees in China, Brazil or Romania and in many other countries.
Jürgen Mehlis: What was the motivation for you to put the teams in the respective countries, i.e. to set them up globally?
Markus Leister: The motivation is definitely access to certain data and to market characteristics from a local perspective. If you take the example of China: few employees at the European location speak Chinese. So hardly anyone would be able to find their way within the Chinese market. So we use given advantages when we work with local colleagues. A company with a sales department based in Hamburg, for example, cannot work from Hamburg to the rest of the world without collaborating with a local or regional team or partner. It’s the same for us with data and catalog data. This is how we also manage to get in touch with local customers and cover specific, locally bound needs.
Marco Loth: For China and Brazil, the main reason was definitely to be closer to the market and the customer. We wanted to understand exactly what the customer in China or Brazil needs in their catalog. That’s why we worked with TecAlliance China on the presentation of our WeChat catalog. Since we are represented in China with a local team (including various warehouses), we can meet customer requirements much more.
Jürgen Mehlis: So it is very helpful that TecAlliance has a global orientation and that you therefore have a strong local partner in the respective markets? Is it an advantage that we have the employees and contacts for your teams in the different countries, so that they can work out the local market requirements together and derive the corresponding processes?
Marco Loth: Yes, definitely! Whether you have to have that or not in every smallest country, I don’t know, but in the main countries for sure!
Jürgen Mehlis: What do you think are the main drivers behind this rapid development in data quality? We have already talked about globalization and digitization. What else do you see?
Markus Leister: In general, I see the requirements of our customers in the foreground here, but also our desire to pre- sent the data itself in a better, holistic context across product groups. The advantage is that catalog data can be read and understood more quickly.
Marco Loth: The only requirement for catalog systems – from the customer’s perspective – is really the speed of updates. Ideally, customers would like to have hourly updates. Of course, it’s also important to them that there are no errors and that everything is usable via app. So that’s where it’s going in the future, I think.
Jürgen Mehlis: Markus, you talk about Web Catalogue, PDF catalog, classic paper catalog structure. Does TMD also derive these from the TecAlliance TecDoc structure? Is TecDoc therefore the basis for the in-house catalogs?
Markus Leister: Yes, exactly. We haven’t printed catalogs for almost eight years now, so we make them available as PDFs. Our catalogs are clearly based on the complete data structure that we maintain in the DMM data management tool for TecDoc and derive precisely from it.
Marco Loth: We have solved it in such a way that customers can print their own catalog if they need specific catalogs for certain cars or model series. In the Middle East or Asia, there are many specialists who are dependent on vehicle manufacturers. For example, there is a BMW specialist in Kuala Lumpur, who then of course only prints out the BMW applications. That is completely sufficient for us. But I also have to say quite clearly that I don’t know when the last request came in from a customer who wanted a paper catalog. Not in the last few years.
Driven by highest data quality
More than 800 brands are now represented in the TecDoc® Catalogue, the world’s leading aftermarket catalog. It comprises more than 160,000 vehicle types, 8.5 million item data from more than 800 brands, 388 million links and 134 item groups.
The TecDoc® standard has already been recognized worldwide for over 25 years and ensures the highest data quality, comparability, efficiency and transparency in the global automotive aftermarket.
How we help you meet our quality measures
- Online data quality workshops
- Monthly & quarterly performance reports
- Guide to generic articles & attributes
- TecDoc® Data Guide
- Targeted functionality in our PIM solutions
- Individual data service
- Personal support
We are your partner for everything that has to do with aftermarket data. We are the trusted digitization partner for the international automotive aftermarket with more than 25 years of experience. We offer data & solutions for the entire value chain. With more than 900 employees worldwide, we are confident that we can also support you in digitizing your business.
Read also part 2 and 3 of the interview: